Wild Chef food illness case closed

Investigators have pinpointed the likely source that sickened nearly 300 customers at a West Michigan restaurant.
Krystle Wagner
Jul 11, 2014

After reviewing food histories of diners who ate at Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse Grill and Bar, 2864 West Shore Drive in Holland Township, from March 28 to April 1, investigators determined the likely norovirus source as a sauce — either White Sauce, Yum-Yum Sauce or Shrimp Sauce.

Customers that fell ill experienced nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and other symptoms.

Wild Chef owner Jay Zheng said in a statement that the restaurant abides by food safety regulations and works “cooperatively with the health department to ensure the best quality food and service” to its customers. He said they have done so for nearly 10 years.

“We learned from this experience and have emerged better, and more aware, for the benefit of our patrons,” Zheng said.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health became aware of the situation in early April after a customer emailed them with a concern after becoming ill after eating at the establishment. Health department epidemiologist Marcia Knol said health officials visited the restaurant after the first complaint, but they didn’t notice any obvious breakdowns in procedures.

The report noted one employee was ill on March 28 and returned to work after feeling better. The employee reported assisting in mixing large batches of the ready-to-eat White Sauce on March 28 and 30.

During the investigation, more than 400 people completed a survey to assist in learning what customers ate, the time they dined at Wild Chef, and other foods and places where they dined.

On April 1, the hibachi-style restaurant voluntarily closed to work with the health department.

Before reopening April 7, the restaurant had to meet requirements set by the health department including: cleaning and disinfecting all restaurant equipment, floors, walls and ceilings; discarding all prepared food; having the entire restaurant team complete an online training course; reinforcing strict policies and practices already in place for maintaining sanitary conditions; and scheduling county health inspections at regular quarterly intervals during the upcoming year.

Additionally, investigators recommended using proper hand-washing techniques, using gloves and utensils to prevent bare hand contact, having an employee illness policy that lists signs and symptoms of illness, and having a designated person in charge to monitor procedures and equipment to ensure employee compliance.

Knol said the restaurant fully cooperated with the health department during the investigation.

Since the investigation concluded, the restaurant has been inspected without any problems, and Knol said they haven’t received any complaints since the outbreak.

“We don’t have any concerns about them,” she said.

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